In the world of computer languages, maybe the most famous program of them all is “Hello world“–the code which displays that two-word greeting. You can write it on the first day you learn a new language, and it’s often used to verify that the system is working properly.
Maybe we should formally declare Flappy Bird to be a sort of more ambitious version of “Hello world.”
Yesterday, Apple startled attendees at its WWDC keynote by announcing that a new language, Swift, would replace Objective-C as the way to write apps for iOS devices. And within hours, someone had implemented Flappy Bird in Swift. (This version is officially called FlappySwift, and I learned about it from the Twitter feed of Apple’s Chris Espinosa.)
When Flappy Bird first became wildly popular a few months ago, I assumed that it was the very definition of a flash in the pan–something which would obsess the world for a brief period, and then disappear. But even though its creator, Nguyen Ha Dong, yanked it off of Apple and Google’s app stores, it’s still burbling around in the world’s subconscious. (Of course, the yanking only served to raise the game’s profile.)
Could Flappy Bird turn out to be like Pac Man: a fad which was huge, then subsided, but never really vanished from the culture? If the children of 2024 can identify Flappy at a glance, we’ll know that the little guy isn’t going anywhere.